The Honours of Scotland
In 1649 Charles I, King of both England and Scotland was executed by Oliver Cromwell, the self-proclaimed Lord Protector. In 1650, his young son Charles II arrived in North East Scotland, and stayed a night in Dunnottar on his journey south to give battle for his fathers' two kingdoms.
In England, on hearing of the young Kings arrival, Oliver Cromwell was so enraged that he ordered the invasion of Scotland. In some haste Charles II was crowned at Scone, but the "Honours of Scotland", the crown and other regalia, could not be returned to Edinburgh Castle, as it had been taken by Cromwell's army. Having already destroyed the English crown jewels, the Honours of Scotland were the most potent icon of monarchy, and as such were next on Cromwell's list. Cromwell's army was fast approaching, so Charles II ordered the Earl Marischal to take the Honours to Dunnottar and secure them there.
It was not long before Dunnottar was under siege, and a scratch, aged garrison of seventy men held out for eight months against the invading might of Cromwell's army until heavy cannons arrived. Following ten days of heavy fire, surrender was made. This was not however before the Honours of Scotland were smuggled out of the Castle and taken to Kinneff Church, where they were buried in the Church. They remained there undiscovered for eleven years, until the King returned to the throne and the Honours were returned to Edinburgh Castle.
The Whig's and Their Vault
One of the darkest chapters of Dunnottar's history is that of the Whig's Vault. In 1685, one hundred and twenty two men and forty five women, whose crime was their refusal to acknowledge the King's supremacy in spiritual matters. They were imprisoned with little food and no sanitation from 24 May until the end of July in the gloomy, airless cellar, which visitors can still experience today.
It is known that thirty seven Whigs finally agreed to take the oath of allegiance and were released. Twenty five escaped, however fifteen were recaptured and two fell to their deaths during the attempt. A further five prisoners also died.
The last Earl Marischal
In 1715 the last and 10th Earl Marischal, George Keith, was convicted of treason for his part in the Jacobite rising. His estates, including Dunnottar Castle, were seized by the Government.
After the seizure of Dunnottar from the Earl Marischals the Castle was neglected, until it was purchased by the Cowdray family in 1925. The 1st Viscountess Cowdray embarked on a systematic programme of repair. Since then the Castle has remained in the Cowdray (Pearson) family, and has been open to visitors.
More detail on the Castle's History is given in the official Dunnottar guidebook, which can be purchased at the Castle.